Sells’ Reading

One of the main aspects that stuck out during the reading was the universal unwillingness to call genocidal acts genocide.  Since calling a conflict a genocide places obligations upon other states to intervene, these states have very little motivation to label these conflicts as such.  Its disheartening to see how self-centered countries are.  Very few weigh the “greater good” above their own self-interests.  Thus, few interventions occur in time to truly stem the toll of the violence.  It would be interesting to see if formalizing moral and legal obligations for atrocities other than genocide would encourage international action.  Perhaps lowering the bar for intervention would force countries to examine the reality of atrocities, and align their actions with their values.

What is also interesting to consider is the centrality of religion in this conflict.  While the actions were labeled as “ethnic tensions”, it became clear in the reading that the Bosnians, Serbs, and Croats had a shared history and lineage.  The distinguishing factor appeared to be religion.  Perhaps this is because it is the most visible sign of difference.  Oftentimes this visibility comes in the form of various ethnicities, which can often be differentiated through physical features.  But in this area, the shared history and lineage may prevent these features from being clear cut.  Instead, religion may be the most defining feature, manifesting itself through customs and dress.  This is a visible reinforcement of difference, which humans have a tendency to fear.  This combines with the sense of self-righteousness that can accompany religious extremism.  This encourages demonization of others, increasing the polarization needed to perpetuate a genocide.  It would be intriguing to consider whether this genocide could have occurred in the absence of religion.  Without this distinguishing factor as the basis for hatred, perhaps such violence in the region couldn’t have occurred.

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